Kexin Hao on stage in Copenhagen


Social Benefits of Synchronization
  • Interpersonal synchrony increases social closeness and pleasant feelings.
  • The link between music and interpersonal synchrony is an important factor that makes music so rewarding.
  • Entrainment is fundamental to coordinate with others.

Psychology Today’s Shahram Heshmat (Ph.D.) shares some research on the topic here.


Check out this awesome bat costume!


Tri-colored bat resting in the palm of a human hand

Scientists do agree that COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus from an animal. COVID-19 is a zoonosis, a human disease of animal origin. However, the animal source of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, has not yet been confirmed. It is likely to have its ancestral origins in a bat species but it probably reached humans through an intermediary species (pangolins have been suggested), or mutated within humans to be able to be transmitted between people and cause disease. This is a priority area for research but it is important to note that subsequent transmission of COVID-19 is from person to person. It is transmission between people that has spread the disease globally.



Screenshot from an online article from the Guardian. Headline reading: “Covid-resistant bats could be key to fighting the next pandemic”

Read the full article here.


A Great Leap Forward Propaganda Painting on the Wall of a Rural House in Shanghai

The Great Leap Forward of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was an economic and social campaign led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from 1958 to 1962. CCP Chairman Mao Zedong launched the campaign to reconstruct the country from an agrarian economy into a communist society through the formation of people’s communes. Mao decreed that efforts to multiply grain yields and bring industry to the countryside should be increased.



1958 propaganda poster, 'Exterminate The Four Pests!'

How China Lost the Total War On Sparrows – The killing of tree sparrows backfired and resulted in the deaths of 55 million Chinese

More on this fascinating history.


Learn more.




Soviet propaganda posters promoting physical fitness

Spread from Kexin’s project publication. See much more here.


A centipede drawing for the 2023 graduation show at KABK

More on the KABK graduation identity.

Interview with Kexin Hao
Speaker at chapter 3: Community
April 2023
Words by Bethany Rigby

After we’d cooled off from her Total Body Workout in Copenhagen, we chatted with designer Kexin Hao on her upcoming work, and how she embodies different characters through performance.

A group of people with their hands over their heads facing Kexin Hao

What have you been up to since the Tangle in Copenhagen?

Actually the presentation was really fruitful because I think it was a nice framework to think about my work, through ‘community’, it’s a good theme to fit all my works in. So after that I actually recycled the talk I gave in Copenhagen at “Audiovisual Art Assembly” at Fiber Festival, an experimental audiovisual art festival in Amsterdam. For this presentation I was focusing on synchronisation of the crowds because a lot of my works are about community and about studying different phenomena of synchronisation. I’m contemplating why do people like synchronisation and why do we tend to synchronise either in the gymnastic discipline or in clubbing situations? So I talked about the works again, using the fruits that I got from Copenhagen and in a different symposium in Amsterdam.

I am also working on my new work, which is a rap, and I’m making a costume of a bat. So it’s a performance with me  singing a bat rap. It’s about what is unwanted, creatures and un-aesthetic, undesired species.

How do you get into that kind of bat-like character? This is similar to something that Wang & Söderström posed to the audience during the Tangle which is; how do you connect to nature, and other beings outside our species? How do you get into a non-human centric viewpoint? 

I started thinking about bats, of course, since COVID and again at the end of the very strict lockdown in China. I thought about all the symbolism or narratives or characterization that people assigned to certain animals in order to serve certain political narratives. So in the case of COVID, the bat embodies a stigmatisation and villianisation of the animal, because of their association as the carrier of the virus. Also, there’s this hero/villain narrative that plays out in politics, debating who has the best policies in the pandemic and who whose political model failed. To China, America is always the enemy, and to America, China is always the enemy. I combined this with the hero/villian narratives that people assign also to animals. So I studied bats in connection to COVID-19, but also sparrows in connection to The Great Leap Forward in 1950’s China. The Four Pests campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward in China from 1958 to 1962 as a hygiene campaign initiated by Mao Zedong to eradicate four named pests: rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows in order to enhance agricultural production. This led to a nationwide massacre of sparrows which disrupted the ecological balance. In the end, they had to import sparrows from the Soviet Union to try to rebalance the ecological order. Nevertheless, there’s this whole generation that believes sparrows are bad and greedy because they eat the farmers’ crops. My work is about how I can embody these unwanted creatures and turn them into role models and pop stars of immunity. My rap is about turning bats into this bad ass character, using rap as a format to convey messages and outcomes of the research, and to embody the new political or ecological urgencies of our time.

And is that something you’re working on solo, or are you doing that through an institution or a collaboration?

There is this open call for a research based project by CBK Rotterdam, that offers grants to local Rotterdam based artists. And I wrote a proposal saying I wanted to do this research, so it’s funded and supported by CBK Rotterdam. Then I am collaborating with a costume designer to make the mechanical articulating wings.

Something I’ve been thinking about since your talk is how you can draw a line between your research on the national physical fitness exercises and radio callisthenics programs in China, and trace those same ideologies around bodily control through to recent global COVID-19 restrictions. Here we had the policing of the public body and where and how it can function, and even to our policies around control of bodies in other ways – such as gender recognition rights and reproductive rights. Do you also consider these other types of collective bodily control as relative to Total Body Workout or is it something that remains quite separate?

Yes of course, I think about different things because there’s always an extension or a variation of, for example, the Chinese physical fitness program. As an example, Kennedy started really intense physical education programs in American schools in the sixties. So I  looked at many different models and different times and countries, but at some point I felt like I needed to concentrate my research into this very specific topic, which is radio callisthenics, because it’s already so big in China.

You’re someone who’s been placed within different geographical communities. You’ve grown up in China and then you’ve moved to Rotterdam, for example. What’s your thoughts on finding communities in different geographies, and how do you connect these separate communities together?

I’m not very engaged or involved in the communities in China, because they are so far away. For me, community is such a local thing, you have to be there physically. I’m really bad at communicating with friends online and although I want to connect with the communities in China  more, I don’t know how. So this is still my struggle: how to have a remote community in the place I grew up?

How does radio callisthenics function as a community practice in China? What is its effect on you and your sense of being together in one place? How does it affect your relationships, to your classmates, teachers or parents, and the feeling of self when those exercises are done in those spaces?

I think radio callisthenics is so present, that it’s almost invisible. When you do something every day, it’s like going to the bathroom, you don’t really think about it. When I was growing up, it was always after the second lesson at 9.30: you just go and then it’s over a few minutes later. It’s actually quite short (the sequence that I do in my work is 15 minutes long because it’s all the versions put together, almost 20 versions), one set of radio callisthenics is only 3 to 4 minutes long. It’s really just to wake up the body and to give you this sense of community, discipline and synchronisation. The sequences are composed or designed to convey a collective message that is encrypted in movements and music; a positive socialist message in a song, and everybody embodies it together. It has this very clear function and everybody knows it. 

Growing up, us kids didn’t like it because we were always rebelling and thinking about something different than what the authorities wanted from us. If they want synchronisation, if they want uniformity, we think about the opposite. We always tried to mess it up, and nobody really likes radio callisthenics. But we had to go. We had to be there. So you don’t think about it. Nobody is like, “Oh, I like radio callisthenics, let’s do it.” But I think what’s interesting is that within this really boring, default, daily routine, people always manage to find something fun.

The alignment of the people in the class is so fixed, that you have the same person in front of you for three years in high school. The person next to you is always the same. It’s composed, not randomised. You cannot go there and stand wherever. So over time it becomes a situation that you’re super familiar with. Then students always play with each other. I remember there was this one movement where you have to turn the torso, rotating and stretching the side of the torso – so you turn towards the back. That one movement was always about looking at your crush. You’d be looking at the person that you’re secretly in love with for these three seconds every morning and everybody did the same. It’s like a common memory that everybody shares, and I find that really interesting. Within this uniformed discipline, there’s also something that is really undisciplined and organic, almost exciting.

You’ve been part of the audience doing radio callisthenics in the past, and now you’re on the other side. How does it feel being the person conducting and instructing audiences?

The first time I did it was at my graduation show and I wasn’t a very experienced performer. I had studied graphic design, so I was kind of terrified! I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t know how much instruction I should give, I didn’t know how many people would show up – but then it was really successful. I didn’t know if people would follow me, but then the music started and the audience just followed me because people enjoy synchronisation. It’s like second nature. I noticed that everyone loved doing the same thing all together. When the clap happened at the exact same second it was just so much fun to them. So yeah, from that moment I figured that it’s something enjoyable to the audience and I should just embrace the role of being the conductor.

I also like that people have different cultural references when it comes to fitness instructors. In my case, I think about the instructor back in Beijing. But here in Europe, most people might think about Jane Fonda, like an aerobics instructor on a shiny stage with lights. Two very different things. In this case, I can embody all of these roles and I don’t think that I’m the conductor of just radio callisthenics, but more of a hybrid role.

How did the performance in Copenhagen compare to your previous iterations?

The Copenhagen one was really nice. I think people really loved [the workout] because I had explained my work in detail beforehand. I think this is the ideal situation for me. Sometimes, people like to book me simply because it’s fun and every so often people just want me to be there and to perform. But people miss out on the context when they only hear the instructions. So that’s where I worry sometimes. 

You mentioned at the Tangle that you want to get more into performance art and we were wondering how your graphic design training can help inform this new practice? 

I think they’re super connected and I’m really happy that I studied graphic design instead of art, because I find design really powerful as a tool. For example, in Total Body Workout, graphic design is important because it’s about propaganda. It’s about visualising ideologies. So because I’m appropriating this propaganda, and the idealised body in propaganda images, I really need graphic design. I find it really powerful that I have this tool and skill set that I can use to convey my messages. 

Then the other way around; the approach of performing art also informs my graphic design. For example; I teamed up with a friend and we designed the campaign for the graduation show this year for my school KABK. We are both performers and we both like participatory processes, so we invited students to come to a drawing workshop and to contribute to the image making of the campaign by making a long centipede of drawings to make the character that embodies the campaign imagery. In this case we use graphics almost like a performance project, using the approach of a participatory performing workshop to inform the image making of the campaign, which is a graphic design commission. 

To keep up with Kexin Hao’s work, follow her on instagram or check her website

Portrait of Kexin Hao. Photo credit: Walther Bølge
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